Thursday, March 28, 2013

Detroit Demonstration Shuts Down City Hall for Two Hours in Protest Over Racist-Dictatorial Rule

Protesters of Detroit emergency manager law take fight to court, city hall

1:40 PM, March 28, 2013
Detroit Free Press

Opponents of Michigan’s new emergency law took their protest inside Detroit city hall today, chanting and singing in front of security officers who would not let them further inside.

The protesters, who earlier started their demonstration by marching from the offices of the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees on West Lafayette to the federal courthouse a few blocks away, agreed to leave about 1 p.m., about two hours after they first gathered outside city hall where they sang “We Shall Not Be Moved,’’ an American folk song often sung during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.

"I woke up this morning ready to get arrested," said the Rev. Charles Williams II, a protest organizer, and head of the local chapter of the National Action Network.

Williams said the protesters wanted to visit Mayor Dave Bing on the 11th floor and tell him to "man up" and fight the emergency manager's arrival.

Earlier in the day, Williams, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton who is the founder of the National Action Network and a political commentator on radio and television, stood outside the United States Courthouse where a lawsuit was filed Wednesday charging that Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit is unconstitutional and a violation of voting rights.

Chanting “No justice, no peace” and “Whose house? Our house,” dozens of opponents walked from the headquarters of the AFSCME downtown to the federal courthouse a few blocks away.

“There will be a threat to everyone in this nation if the emergency management in Detroit stands,” Sharpton said outside the courthouse, with mayoral candidates Krystal Crittendon and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon standing nearby.

“What Gov. Snyder has done is nullify the voters of this city, interposed his own will, something that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke against 50 years ago this year.”

Snyder, who was participating in a Pancakes and Politics forum at the Detroit Athletic Club about the same time as the demonstrations, acknowledged the lawsuit.

“That’s part of democracy, that’s what the courts are for. We’ve had a pretty good success rate” fighting lawsuits, Snyder said.

Sharpton called the Detroit fight “a local issue but a national struggle” and pledged to bring thousands of protesters to battle against the state’s emergency manager law, Public Act 436, and the tenure of Kevyn Orr, who assumed the job of emergency manager on Monday.

The suit, filed in the Eastern District of the U.S. District Court, lists Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon as defendants. There are more than 20 plaintiffs, including Flint Councilman Scott Kincaid, officials from Benton Harbor, the Rev. Jim Holley of Detroit, the Rev. Charles Williams II of Detroit and Michigan AFSCME Council 25. Flint and Benton Harbor are among the cities that have had emergency managers after recording million-dollar deficits.

After Sharpton’s address outside federal court, about 100 of the demonstrators marched to the nearby Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to continue their protest of the emergency manager law. Sharpton did not make that trip.

The demonstrators gathered near the Spirit of Detroit statue and continued chanting. At one point, they held hands and formed a large circle, with one man in the middle holding a large American flag.

The demonstrators then moved inside city hall but all were not able to get through security.

The flood of demonstrators prompted security to stop letting all people in, said Crittendon, who works for the city’s law department and last year raised a legal challenge to the emergency manager law before being removed as the city’s corporation counsel by Bing.

The demonstrators chanted "we'll be back" as they left the building.

Free Press Staff Writer Kathleen Gray contributed to this report.

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